May 28, 2918
Distance: 96 miles (total: 5,201 miles)
I’m writing this from the comfort of my home 10 days after the finale of my trip. Word on the street is people are curious as to why I waited so long to finish up the blog. I apologize for making you wait this long, but I wanted to make sure I did not short you or myself by not putting in my full effort into the piece. I also wanted to have a better idea of what feelings and takeaways from the trip would stick around for the extended future before rushing to conclusions of how the experienced changed me. Lastly, the built up exhaustion seemed to hit me like a ton of bricks when I finished, to the point that I had no interest in spending time thinking back to day 1 to understand how far I have come.
After meeting up with my cousin Eric and several good friends from Penn State in Philadelphia, I headed out for the last 100 miles. The trip was relatively uneventful except I met up with my dad at Fran and Faith McGorry’s beach home in Ocean City, NJ. It was great to see Fran and Faith who supported me during my journey. Even more special, was I got to ride the last 25 miles with my dad. During the weeks before I started out in LA, my dad and I took a two day journey on our bikes south to San Diego. It was nice starting and finishing with him.
I can’t figure out a way to not begin by saying how much this trip made me appreciate certain aspects of my life. When I think back to how alone I felt at certain times of the trip, I understand now how much I should value being surrounded by wonderful people in my life. It goes without saying that my family could not be more supportive of me, but I also value my relationships with friends and co-workers more than ever. It’s the biggest reason why I’m glad I completed this trip solo, even though I may not have put much thought to it before leaving LA. My lowest moments during the trip strongly correlated with being alone, but if it wasn’t for those low moments I wouldn’t feel the same appreciation for the high moments. That’s why I can’t thank you enough for following my trip, sending me your support, and keeping me in your thoughts over the last 75 days.
I’m sure it is no surprise to anyone that I now appreciate having a home more after spending this much time on the road. During my 74 nights on the road, I slept in 67 different places and typically didn’t know where that place would be until the day I arrived. Though some of the friendliest people I have ever met opened their homes to me, there’s nothing like being settled into one place you can call home. Sorry, I don’t buy into the idea that home is where you lay your head or home is where your heart is. This aspect of the trip caused the most anxiety for me because of the 180 degree change in lifestyle from what I have been accustomed to the past 23 years of my life. It’s also the biggest reason why I have difficulty promising to myself that I’ll embark on another adventure at some point in my life, but more on that later.
A lack of an established home also meant needing to carry everything I need in two backpack-sized bags for two and a half months. It’s hard not to appreciate the simple life after carrying only the necessities for that duration of time, which leads to one of the biggest changes in my life from prior to leaving LA. As long as my fridge is somewhat full with good food, I’m a happy man. I also don’t own a car and can get anything I need with my bike, such as filling my panniers with enough groceries to last me a week. After wearing the same two outfits almost every day of the trip, I feel comfortable with a small wardrobe to make it work. Though I only have a short time in Wildwood to enjoy this lifestyle, I have no intentions of changing it when I move north to work in New York City.
I began the trip with the idea that I would take a month off of traveling by staying in Wildwood before continuing on more adventures. It didn’t take long for me to realize that the exhaustion from my bike tour will not wear off by the time a month has passed, so I decided to tell the waterpark that I would work for the full summer. It wasn’t a difficult decision because of how much I love working there, but it does mean that I give up my last few months of freedom before beginning the dreaded desk job and adulting. Money also played a factor in going back to work at Morey’s. Though I attempted to be as frugal as possible, having no income will eventually catch up to me. Many of the people I encountered on the trip were curious about the cost of the trip, so I thought I’d explain to you all why my answer to them was that the trip cost much less than I had expected.
Friends and family: 27 nights
Warmshowers: 11 nights
Fire houses: 1 night
Camping (free): 5 nights
Camping (payment): 20 nights
Hotel or hostel: 10 nights
Until I calculated those numbers, I had no idea that that many friends and family members supported me along the way. I never thought of it as that many because it wasn’t until the end of the trip that I truly benefitted from knowing people in the areas I traveled. These people, along with the wonderful Warmshower hosts, spoiled me each and every time, so I almost never left without receiving at least one free meal as well. I will never say this enough: without the amazing people who hosted me along the way, this trip would not have been possible. In the end, I would estimate that I spent roughly $600 on accommodations throughout the trip.
In terms of food and beverages, I changed very little about what I ate daily except for the automatic yes if I was ever offered dessert. I also added constant snacks throughout the day to help me get through the long days on the saddle. I would estimate I spent approximately $1,400 on food and beverage throughout the trip. However, I would like to point out that I don’t necessarily think of that as a cost of the trip because I would be eating and drinking, regardless if I was on the road or not.
Finally, I spent approximately $200 on gear and bike tune-ups, and $200 on tourism activities such as scuba diving and ferry rides throughout the trip. That brings my estimated trip total to about $2,400 with about $1,000 in costs directly related to the trip. This doesn’t factor in the start-up costs I incurred before leaving LA since I bought most of my gear, but those items still have some value because very few pieces of gear broke during the trip. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if $2,400 or $32 a day is a lot for traveling, but one thing you should keep in mind is how much money I saved by spending $0 on gas.
What’s next? Despite deciding not to travel for the rest of the summer, I still have a few “journey of a lifetime” experiences on my bucket list that I’ll share with you when it comes time to hit the road again. In the meantime, I have no intentions of losing all the endurance I gained from biking 5,201 miles. As many of you know, I asked for support throughout the trip by sharing the Ironman Foundation (Team IMF) and its mission to benefit various local organizations in Maryland, many of which played a role in my childhood. I arrived in North Wildwood having raised $2,795 for Team IMF and I’m excited to say that I’m only $705 away from receiving the opportunity to compete in Ironman Maryland in a September. This is a challenge I’ve been itching to take on for a few years, and thanks to all my followers I will receive the chance to toe the line. That is, if I learn to swim better first. If you would like to play a part, please consider donating to my personal fundraising page (crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/2018-ironman-maryland1/jonmuth1).
As much as people think this trip was about taking on the challenge of biking across the country, it didn’t take long for me to realize that the physical challenge played quite a small part in my experience. In the end, I completed the trip successfully because I took a seemingly unfathomable challenge and broke it down into smaller pieces. Coast to coast, state to state, day by day, hour by hour. If I continued to think about how far I still had to go, I would have never made it. To this day, I still can’t comprehend the distance I traveled and I’ll admit l don’t know if I ever will. It’s like I started the trip staring at the puzzle box and now need to put the puzzle together to realize the amount of pieces (thought and effort) required to complete the puzzle from one side to the other.
I’ll admit that I don’t think my trip would be right for everyone, but never try to tell me you couldn’t do it. If you really wanted to hit the road for an adventure, you would find a way to make it work. That’s why I shared my first experience bike touring with you all. It’s the experience that dropped my confidence level so low I didn’t even think I would actually make it to Florida until I rode 2/3 of the way there! I wouldn’t let a disastrous first experience of not being able to ride back from Santa Barbara due to mudslides stop me from eventually leaving the comfort of my parent’s home, and looking back I think you can all agree I would be a different man if I let it hold me back. Imagine how I would feel if I let an “I can’t do this” mentality from holding me back.
My parting words take me back to one of the biggest reasons why I took this adventure. I always felt too cliché to ever mention it any time someone asked me the big “why” on the road. The truth: I learned more about myself in the past 75 days than I ever will in that short time period again. Full stop. Some people call it introspection or self-reflection, but whatever it is I spent a lot of time alone with only my thoughts to entertain me. It’s hard to think back to the person I was before this trip because of how much I grew in the short time period. People say you should never stop learning once you leave the classroom, and this trip taught me things you could never learn at school.
Thank you all for your support and for keeping me company out there on the road.